John Doe documents have potential to influence undecided voters, - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

John Doe documents have potential to influence undecided voters, expert says

Posted: Updated: Jun 19, 2014 10:35 PM
MADISON (WKOW) -- The unsealing of more than 250 pages of federal documents as part of the John Doe investigation into Governor Scott Walker and several conservative advocacy groups is not likely to influence most Wisconsin voters, according to a political scientist.

Professor of law and political science Donald Downs said the divisive, 2012 recall election in which Walker beat back a challenge from Democrat Tom Barrett has led to a polarized political climate across the state.

"The battle lines have been pretty drawn now for quite a while on Walker and his opponents," said Downs. He said it's unlikely allegations detailed in the federal documents, accusing Walker of participating in a criminal scheme to illegally coordinate with conservative groups like the Wisconsin Club for Growth, will influence any voters with strong opinions.

Downs said the details contained in the federal documents, unsealed Thursday, could impact "margin" voters -- or those who have yet to form strong opinions about the Governor.

Downs said the John Doe documents could serve as a factor in swaying undecided voters. He said it's too early to tell how the John Doe allegations would compare to issues like jobs or the recent federal court decision throwing out Wisconsin's ban on same sex marriage. Downs said the influence of the documents depends on what's inside.

No charges against Walker have been filed. 

"People who are in the judicial process, objective, removed and in a separate branch of government from me or the legislature, have made it clear at the state level and the federal level that they did not believe there was a case made," Walker said of the John Doe probe following a speech in Milwaukee Thursday.

In the documents, an investigator acting on behalf of prosecutors from five, Wisconsin counties, argues the Walker campaign's alleged coordination with advocacy groups was a breach of campaign finance law. In a ruling last month, federal judge Rudolph Randa said such coordination is legal because the groups promoted messages on issues but did not promote specific candidates like the Governor himself. Randa's ruling halted the investigation and the decision is now before the U.S. Court of Appeals.

The federal lawsuit was brought by the Wisconsin Club for Growth, which alleges the John Doe probe violates the organization's right to free speech.

A similar lawsuit is pending in state court.

Democratic state representative Brett Hulsey issued the following statement via email Thursday in the wake of the documents being released:

"We knew Gov. Walker was a pawn of billionaires like the Koch Brothers and these court documents prove it," Hulsey said via email.

A spokesperson for Democrat Mary Burke, Walker's likely opponent in this November's election, did not reply to a request for comment.
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